Lower Elwha 'cancer fighter' doing well after surgery
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Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News
A fund at First Federal has been set up to help the family of Derek Charles of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe pay his medical expenses.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man who has been fighting cancer for nearly half his life was recovering Thursday from surgery to remove a stomach tumor.

Derek Charles, 39, a Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member, was expected to be moved out of the intensive care unit at Seattle's University of Washington Medical Center late Thursday, family members said.

Doctors felt Wednesday's surgery successfully removed the tumor that had proven resistant to chemotherapy, Levi Charles, Derek Charles' brother and family spokesman, said Thursday.

“Derek is awake and joking around with his nurse already,” Levi Charles said.

“The nurse said he was great through the night and is going to get out of ICU today already,” he added.

“He is in his normal good spirits and looks good for someone who went through a 9-hour surgery.”

The tumor was removed and with it small portions of his liver and small intestine, Levi Charles said.

Doctors found radiation damage to his small intestines and hope it heals.

But Levi Charles said another surgery to repair his intestines may be needed, he said.

Derek Charles began his first battle with cancer when he was 3 years old in 1977.

He has spent 18 years of his life dealing with the disease.

He beat the first cancer, a rare type called Ewing's sarcoma, in the 1980s but was left with damage to his right leg and a struggle to find employment.

In 2007, cancer returned when he was diagnosed with rectal cancer.

Surgery removed that tumor, though it caused partial paralysis of his legs, but in 2012, doctors discovered that cancer had metastasized to his stomach.

His father, Alfred Charles Sr., 70, has been his full-time caretaker and has been at his son's side in Seattle.

As a member of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe as well as a large family, Derek Charles has a lot of people behind him.

“We have received lots of support from back home,” Levi Charles said.

His brother will go through another round of chemotherapy to attack any cancer cells that may have been missed during Wednesday's surgery.

The trip, the stay at the hospital and expenses for family members who will be in Seattle to support Derek Charles during his initial recovery add up quickly, and the family has said it needs some help.

An account has been set up at First Federal bank to help the family, and donors can deposit funds in his or his son's name at any branch of the bank, Alfred Charles said.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 18. 2013 6:09PM
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